Music Teacher's Helper Blog

If You Want to Master Something, Teach

My favorite quote from a Yogi Tea Bag said “If you want to learn something, read. If you want to understand something, write. If you want to master something, teach.”  I saw this quote several summers ago, and it really hit a nerve. Suddenly, it became clear that teaching made me more skilled as a musician than any other practice. In order to understand a musical concept, I could not simply feel it like I normally do, and hope the student would understand. I had to grasp it from every direction. Teaching well means having the ability to explain a difficult concept in a manner that makes it appear easy.

In the beginning of my teaching, I stayed away from teaching Jazz because I did not have any training in this genre. Last year, I became very curious about Jazz and started practicing on my own. Just a standard here and there, as well as some Jazz method book learning. I also began listening to a lot of old Jazz greats like Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday. It seemed scary, but I decided to try testing out the old Yogi Tea wisdom, and I started assigning Jazz pieces to my students and teaching them how to improvise. I may not be a master of Jazz, but I am certainly much better that I was last year, and my students have proven that I am doing a good job.

It doesn’t stop at genres either. This year I felt I needed to work on my own focus, discipline, and attention to detail, as well as tame the inner critic in my head. I started emphasizing these traits in my students and we have all greatly improved. Have you tried this approach? Do you find you are getting better right along side your students?

About the Author

Bella Payne
While working on a degree in Sociology with plans to become a Social Worker, I fell into teaching piano lessons as a way to pay my bills. I had no idea I was stumbling into a totally fulfilling, creative and exciting career! Every day, I teach several students in their homes, in my home, and online how to play piano from scratch. Over the last 10 years, I have seen kids and adults go from timid b... [Read more]

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